Is it OK to fish the Farmington in low summer flows?

I received a great question today: “How about a straight answer about fishing the river at the level it is at right now. I was told I’m crazy for staying away – my thought is it’s not good for the fish or the fisherman. Be honest please.” I’m assuming the question is about the Farmington.

Those of you who know me know I have nothing to sell you but the truth. So here we go.

The simple answer is: most of the time, yes. The Farmington is, after all, a tailwater. If you’re unsure what that means, its flow is generated by a bottom dam release, in this case Hogback Reservoir. In an average year, the reservoir will have a good amount of water in it, such that the bottom strata will be much cooler than the surface. I can tell you from experience that I’ve shivered for hours in the river on a 90 degree day in July. That water is plenty cold.

Fog is what happens when frosty water meets warm, humid air. This shot is from mid-summer.

Morning Fog

What happens in a drought year? In the most extreme years, it can get ugly. Go back to our most recent severe drought year, 2016. The water release was in the paltry double digits, and because there was so little water in the reservoir, what was coming out of the chute was in the mid 60s — not good. Take that water, bake it over several miles, and we had fish kills. The DEEP even declared thermal refuges, unprecedented for the Farmington River. I advised people to not fish.

So what about right now? The release is 118cfs, not great, but it’s coming out cold (the Still is adding 12cfs for a total of 130) as we had plenty of water this spring. Where you fish matters. The run from Hogback to Riverton right is plenty healthy for fish. Naturally, it will warm as it travels downstream. The water may be stressful to trout by the time it gets to Unionville. But every day is different — today it’s cloudy and in the upper 70s, not exactly a river-under-a-heat lamp. If it were sunny and blast-furnace hot, you’d have a different dynamic.

When you fish matters, too. From dawn through when the sun tops the trees is the coolest the river will be on any given summer day.

In conclusion: Use the stoutest tippet you can to get those fish in fast. Don’t take them out of the water. Fish when and where the water is coolest. Use common sense, and you’ll fish with a clear conscience.

 

Friday Farmy/Hous Mini-Report: Cold and Hot and Not Much in Between

On Friday I guided Mark on a Farmy-Hous doubleheader. While the air was sweltering, the Farmy was pleasantly cool — and the fishing downright cold. We were nymphing, and in two high-probability runs we could only manage to stick one fish. In fact, we shared the water with close to a dozen anglers at various times between 12:30 and 3:30, and we saw only one other fish caught. Hatch activity was slow to non-existent. Feh. Off to the Hous.

Which didn’t fish much better — at first — and was a totally disgusting sweat lodge into the bargain. First spot in the TMA: blank. Second spot: a few customers. Third spot: Really? Nothing? OK, nothing until 8:15, then the switch was thrown, but even then we weren’t exactly lighting it up. Nonetheless, a strong finish to a tough day, and Mark did a great job of working through it.

Yeah, man. That’s what we like to see. The Countermeasures pattern did its usual reliable work at dusk, particularly in frog water and along the edges. Before dark, we had our best action in the “hot” water: bubbling, gurgling oxygenated flows like this.

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Only three guide days open through August 13

If you’re looking to head out with me midsummer — wet flies, nymphing, hopper/dropper, whatever — the pickings are slim: I have two mid-day half days open on Monday July 15 and Tuesday July 16, and either a full or half day open July 22. That’s it. You know where to find me.

I love summertime on the Farmington.

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Farmington River Report 6/28/19: The summer pattern arrives

I guided longtime client Mark yesterday and we found the Farmington in its classic summer pattern: long stretches of nothing punctuated by bursts of frantic activity. We fished from noon-7pm. The method for the first five hours was a team of three wets, including some shot-on-the-leader presentations in deep pools. While we found some trout willing to jump on (See that tree over there? There’s always a trout hiding underneath it…) the bug/bird/bite activity was dramatically slower than it has been, no doubt due to the bright sun and soaring temperatures. We fished below and within the Permanent TMA. Late afternoon found us ensconced in one of Mark’s favorite dry fly runs, and as we moved toward evening, it was no surprise that the trout became a little more active. Nonetheless, I found the hatch to be disappointing-to-mediocre-at-best. But we persevered and stuck a few trout on tiny sulphur Comparaduns. (It was sulphurs, caddis, and some guest Isos, but mostly sulphurs, especially after 7:30pm) I fished past the time I could no longer see my fly, and called it quits after the last take. By this time the surface was simmering. Hello, summer!

Mark has a knack for this: I tell him I’m going to shore to put on my jacket, and that I’ll recognize him from a distance due to the bent rod. Yesterday I took about ten steps and suddenly I heard splashing. True dis: it’s happened two years in a row. In the same spot. Way to go, Mark!

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Farmington River Report 6/13/19: Fish on!

Mark is a repeat client, and yesterday he wanted to work on his nymphing. We picked a great day for it: moderate-to-high flows, overcast, rain, showers, cold (54 degrees in mid-June? Really?). We hit three marks below the Permanent TMA and found multiple fish willing to play in all of them. The method was a combination of indicator and tight line nymphing, both using a drop-shot rig. We fished a size 16 Starling and Herl top dropper and a size 14 Frenchie variant on point; the trout found favor with both flies.

Trutta buttah, the best fish of the day, a some-teen inch wild brown that hammered the Frenchie. Love those pecs! Great job playing and landing by Mark.

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Pure paar pulchritude. This yearling was my personal favorite, a testament to the fertile nature of the river. He selected the Starling and Herl. Mark also took a half-dozen rainbows of varying size, all of which were more than happy to treat us to aerials and other obstreperous behavior.

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A shout out to Mark who has vastly improved his nymphing skills: line/leader management, quality drifts, and especially hook sets. Well done, and thanks for a great day.

Farmington River Report 5/29/19: Nymph them up

Wednesday was cool, overcast, and there wasn’t a lot of hatch activity (caddis and Light Cahills) until late afternoon. That didn’t stop Sam from sticking a bunch of trout between 10am-5pm. We fished below and within the permanent TMA, four marks total, and we found trout willing to jump on in all of them. Given the water height (880cfs lower river and 575 up north) we spent the entire day working on Sam’s drop-shot nymphing game, using a combination of tight line and indicator tactics. We landed a mix of rainbows and wild & Survivor Strain browns. Good job, Sam! You’re on your way to becoming a lethal subsurface threat.

Deep within the Amazon jungle, native wildflowers…nah. It’s just New Hartford, Connecticut. Darn pretty, though, and as lush and green as the rainforest.

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Men at work: Sam getting it done with a tight line presentation. His reward was a lovely wild brown that came on a size 14 Hare and Copper.

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One of several Survivor Strain browns that made it to the hoop. This one came out of the Permanent TMA. Way to go, Sam!

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Mother Nature has spoken: Light Cahills on the lower Farmington

I have not been to the lower Farmington to bear witness, but I know the Light Cahills are coming off because the first rose in my garden bloomed today. On top, a classic Catskills dry or a creamy Usual; subsurface, a legacy Light Cahill winged wet or a Partridge and Light Cahill soft hackle. All will serve you well.

Every year is different, but nature is always on time. This rose is called “Grenada.”

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